Sharp-shooter Balogun catching the eye at Reims this season | Soccer
PARIS (AP) — Kylian Mbappé’s twice-missed penalty for Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday night didn’t change the outcome of that game, but it did allow Folarin Balogun to pass him in the league scoring charts .
While Mbappé is a household name in football circles and far beyond, 21-year-old Balogun is just starting to make a name for himself in France thanks to his performances with lowly Reims.
His hat-trick in a 4-2 win over Lorient on Wednesday took him to 14 league goals this season, one more than Mbappé.
Last weekend, Balogun impressed throughout in a 1-1 draw at PSG, leveling deep in stoppage time after an expertly timed run and a ruthless finish.
Prior to that match, Balogun received a pep talk from French great Thierry Henry, who was at the Parc des Princes in his role as a commentator for the match broadcaster.
So after his 96th-minute equalizer, Balogun stood with one hand on his hip and one arm on the corner flag, to mimic one of Henry’s famous goal celebrations.
“I spoke to Titi (Thierry) before the match! Just showing my respect,” Balogun posted on Twitter, alongside a photo of Henry’s goal celebration.
There is something else that connects them: Arsenal.
Balogun is on loan from the London-based side where Henry earned a reputation as one of the Premier League’s greatest players. Henry was the Premier League’s top scorer four times and is Arsenal’s all-time top scorer with 228 goals in all competitions.
Henry was gone by the time Balogun joined Arsenal’s academy aged 8. Balogun signed as a professional in 2019. But despite signing a new contract in 2021, opportunities were limited and he only played 10 games in total, scoring twice in the Europa League. , before joining Reims on loan last August.
It took just a few months for the New York-born Englishman to become Reims’ key player and the team’s 13-game unbeaten streak is largely thanks to him.
After saving a point against PSG, he drew his side 2-0 down at home to Lorient. His first goal was a penalty kick through the middle, the second a fine right-footed volley from close range and the third a goal Henry would have been proud of.
As the ball drifted over the defence, Balogun timed his run perfectly to meet it on the left of the penalty area before hitting a left-footed first volley into the right corner without breaking stride.
“It’s wonderful, it surprises me every day. The pass was perfect but he managed to meet it with the inside of his foot and find the opposite corner,” said Reims coach Will Still. “Hats off to him because it was his first hat-trick. It shows the striker that he is, but also shows the personality he has.
Balogun still has a long way to go before he gets anywhere near the level of Henry or Mbappé – who in December became only the second player to score a hat-trick in a World Cup final.
Mbappé’s 196 goals for PSG include nine hat-tricks and a quadruple for PSG. Last month he became the first PSG player to score five goals in one game. It only takes five more to beat Edinson Cavani’s PSG record of 200 goals.
But Mbappé will not increase his tally this weekend against Toulouse, after injuring his left thigh on Wednesday against Montpellier. He is expected to be out for three weeks.
Balogun, meanwhile, will be aiming for more goals when Reims travel to take on 19th-placed Auxerre on Sunday.
Auxerre conceded 46 goals in 21 matches for the league’s second-best tally and the Burgundy side have lost their last seven games.
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